We lost the first battle, but we haven't lost the war.
The trouble started on Wednesday during committee consideration of SB 149, Sen. Jason Rapert's bill to completely ban abortion in the event that Roe is overturned. As the meeting progressed, it became clear that none of the men in the room had any idea how basic contraception works. Despite expressing their concerns and one senator admitting he was violating a campaign pledge by supporting legislation to ban abortion even in the case of rape and incest, the bill passed unanimously on a voice vote.
Then things got even worse. With the bill on the Senate floor, one Republican legislator after another came forward to express their support for SB 149. Sen. Kim Hammer said, "Who are we fooling if we think our bodies belong to ourselves in the first place? That is an attitude which I think God frowns upon and finds great disdain with."
There were some bright spots, though.
Three Black women Democrats rose to the occasion and stood up against the difficult odds on the floor of the Senate. Some stories were personal — like Sen. Elliott's story above of discovering the victim of a pre-Roe abortion in her college dormitory — some were faith-driven, and all were grounded in a woman's fundamental right to choose.
In the end, the Senate passed SB149 by a vote of 29-6, with all Republicans and three Democrats voting in favor. That fight isn't over — we still have a chance to stop it in the House — and there is still bad legislation being filed all the time. On Friday, Sen. Stubblefield (R-Branch) filed a bill to extend the waiting period for an abortion to 72 hours. He didn't say why. That's because there's no medical reason for it. It's just another attempt by politicians to insert themselves into women's personal decisions.
There is more dangerous legislation yet to come. There will be more phone calls to make, more friends to organize, and more emails to send. We have to remember that these legislators answer to us, and eventually, they won't be able to ignore us.
Stay warm out there. I'll be in touch soon.
Arkansas Manager of Public Policy & Organizing
Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes
SB 149 is on its way to the House where we can assume it will be referred to the House Public Health Committee, which meets Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m. We expect for at least a couple of bills to run through this committee this week. Unlike in the Senate, this committee does have a couple of pro-choice advocates on it. That means we'll be able to better inform you when legislation is expected to be heard. Of course, we'll also see more legislation in the Senate Public Health Committee on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. and potentially after the Senate adjourns some days. For up-to-the-minute updates on the machinations of the legislature, follow us on Twitter and stream the meetings live.
SB 2 (awaiting Senate committee hearing) stands in the way of a woman exercising her right to an abortion in the case of a diagnosis of fetal Down syndrome, while doing nothing to address discrimination or ensure that people living with disabilities have access to health care and other services they need.
SB 3 (awaiting fiscal impact statement) is a TRAP law that imposes medically unnecessary reporting requirements on abortion providers in an effort to intimidate and, ultimately, discredit them.
SB 149 (awaiting House committee hearing) triggers a total abortion ban if Roe v. Wade is overturned with no excpetion for rape or incest. Doctors who perform abortions would face up to ten years in prison.
SB 278 (awaiting Senate committee hearing) is a TRAP law that would extend the abortion waiting period to 72 hours and increase Arkansas' "informed consent" requirements.
HB 1289 (awaiting House committee hearing) is similar to the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act — it would expand the right of doctors not to participate in services that violate their conscience.
State Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, told members of the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee that there was a 'good chance' the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion would be overturned in the near future. If that happens, Senate Bill 149 would immediately 'ban abortion' in Arkansas, Rapert said.
Supreme Court on 5-to-4 vote blocks restrictive Louisiana abortion law, The Washington Post
Chief Justice John G. Roberts joined with the Supreme Court's liberals Thursday night to block a Louisiana law that opponents say would close most of the state's abortion clinics and leave it with only one doctor eligible to perform the procedure.... Hospitalization after abortion is rare, all sides agree, and the lack of admitting privileges by the doctor who performed the procedure is not a bar to the woman getting needed medical care.”
Save the date for these upcoming events.
February 20, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. — PPGPV Arkansas Lobby Day at Christ Church and the Capitol
March 14, 6-8 p.m. — The Bash fundraiser for Planned Parenthood Great Plains at Fayetteville Town Center
May 1, 6-8 p.m. — Garden Party fundraiser for Planned Parenthood Great Plains in Little Rock